Take Care Of Your Cognition
Ageing is inevitable and the internet likes to remind us of this with hundreds of articles and posts on signs you’re getting old. A lot of these articles point to indications such as forgetting where you put your phone or keys, not being able to remember names and your friends starting to have babies on purpose. Most of these things have one thing in common that articles often fail to mention.
And that thing is, *drum roll*
The majority of articles fail to mention that with natural ageing, cognitive deficits emerge.
We know and understand that cognition is important. It’s the process behind thinking and developing a person’s understanding of the knowledge they have obtained.
But what about cognitive deficits? What are they? Who do they affect? And why should we be concerned about them now? In this article, we’ll unpack and answer these questions to help you understand.
What Are Cognitive Deficits?
Medscape defines the term as:
“Cognitive deficit is an inclusive term to describe impairment in an individual’s mental processes that lead to the acquisition of information and knowledge, and drive how an individual understands and acts in the world.”
In other words, a cognitive deficit is any form of impairment in cognition which negatively impacts your mental processes. Ultimately, deficits in cognition can manipulate your understanding of knowledge and even change behaviour. In some extreme cases, it can make it difficult for people to “engage effectively in their daily lives and activities” (Etkin, Gyurak, O’Hara, 2013).
Deficits can occur in any of the cognitive domains, these include:
- Higher reasoning.
For instance, it could lead to the person affected not being able to pay attention at work, process information as quickly as they used to, remember and recall details, easily initiate a conversation with strangers, family or friends, think critically, plan their time and solve any problems which may arise in their day to day life (Trivedi, 2006).
Why Is It Important To Maintain Our Cognition?
Our cognitive abilities and functions are critical in enabling us to live our day to day lives and activities. As we age, changes in our cognition are bound to occur as part of the normal ageing process. A study conducted by Daniel L. Murman titled The Impact Of Age On Cognition notes the significance of age-related cognitive deficits:
Cognition is critical for functional independence as people age, including whether someone can live independently, manage finances, take medications correctly, and drive safely. In addition, intact cognition is vital for humans to communicate effectively, including processing and integrating sensory information and responding appropriately to others.(Murman, 2015)
Understanding what to expect when it comes to changes in cognition is pretty important as abnormal changes can suggest the onset of brain disease. Moreover, because of the “rapidly increasing number of adults over the age of 65 and the increasing prevalence of age-associated neurodegenerative dementias,” it is important to know about the inevitabilities of ageing and how you can combat them (Murman, 2015).
Furthermore, a number of studies have been conducted which support evidence of cognitive deficits in psychiatric disorders, including:
- Bipolar disorder
- Psychotic disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders
- Depression and anxiety disorders.
How To Counter Age-Related Cognitive Deficit
There are a number of activities which you can incorporate into your daily life that can help to prevent cognitive decline, such as:
- Alcohol (Harvard Health reports some research suggests drinking alcohol in moderation can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia)
- Socialising/ social contacts
- Mental stimulation.
Brain training or computerised cognitive training is another form of activity which has been shown to have positive effects on people who experience cognitive deficits. A study conducted by Bruno Bonnechere from Université libre de Bruxelles in partnership with Peak – Brain Training researched The Use of Mobile Games To Assess Cognitive Function of Elderly with and without Cognitive Impairment. The study concluded:
Cognitive training using mobile games is becoming more and more popular for people with or without cognitive impairments. Our study suggests that such procedures are clinically-meaningful and could be used to develop scores related to the cognitive status.(Bonnechère et al., 2018)
We understand that no one, apart from a few eccentrics, wants to get old, wrinkly or lose their hair. And it’s something we don’t want to really think about. However, cognitive deficits are very real and it’s important to acknowledge and address these potential impairments to our mental processes before it’s too late! No matter how young at heart you are, your brain will age with you. Acting now and keeping your cognition in check and on its toes could make a critical impact on your life in the years to come. Trust us, the future you will thank the past you, for the decisions the present you makes.
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Bonnechère, B., Van Vooren, M., Bier, J., De Breucker, S., Van Hove, O., Van Sint Jan, S., Feipel, V. and Jansen, B. (2018). The Use of Mobile Games to Assess Cognitive Function of Elderly with and without Cognitive Impairment. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 64(4), pp.1285-1293.
Murman, D. (2015). The Impact of Age on Cognition. Seminars in Hearing, 36(03), pp.111-121.
Etkin, A., Gyurak, A., & O’Hara, R. (2013). A neurobiological approach to the cognitive deficits of psychiatric disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 15(4), 419–429.
Trivedi, J. (2006). Cognitive deficits in psychiatric disorders: Current status. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 48(1), p.10.
Harada, C., Natelson Love, M. and Triebel, K. (2013). Normal Cognitive Aging. PMC. 29(4), 737-752.